Friday, November 2, 2012
breaking up is hard to do
The other day I was teaching how to write an essay, a normal topic I've gone over a hundred times. This time, I used an analogy first proffered in this space by Ed.
He once told me and this blog that he teaches academic writing with a dating analogy.
The lesson goes like this: tell your students that when they write papers, pretend they are trying to convince their friend that their current significant other isn't all that great and they need to break up. You can't just say, "break up with hir." That's a start, but gets you nowhere if that's all you got. To be compelling, you have to add, "s/he is mean-spirited, selfish, and generally no good for you."
What's more, you have to provide evidence too: "Remember that time s/he kissed your mother a bit too open-mouthed and then patted her on the tush before winking suggestively at your dad. That's just mean."
"And then there was that time s/he took the last sip of the Slurpee before handing it back to you throw away--and that was on your birthday!"
"And all this brings out the worst in you, making you insecure and weak and no fun to be around."
Then we suggested an outline:
Argument: Break up.
A. open-mouthed kiss with your mother
A. slurpee slurper
III. no good for you
A. you change when you're with hir
Conclusion: Break up.
This was all a bit silly in class, but it was effective at teaching beginners how to make an argument and rely on evidence to back up your points. Truth be told, I've been shocked at how many students have talked to me about writing using this analogy.
And that's another lesson: to an extent, meet them where they are!